The NFL’s 2021 regular season didn’t fail to disappoint. But, as the regular season comes to a close, the post-season begins. This season, just two NFL teams received a bye-week, while the remaining 12 are set to face-off this weekend. The NFL deemed this weekend, “Super Wild Card Weekend.” If the regular season was any indication of this year’s post-season, it’s sure to be one to remember.

The Tennesee Titans and the Green Bay Packers will be watching from home along with us as six AFC and NFC teams battle it out for a chance to move onto the Divisional round. Which begs the question, who will come out on top of Super Wild Card Weekend? Which teams will get the chance to move onto the Divisional round? I have an idea of who wins which game, so let’s get into my predictions.

AFC

Raiders @ Bengals

The Raiders are coming off an incredible Sunday night overtime thriller against the Los Angeles Chargers. After a season of turmoil, it’s shocking the Raiders even made it this far. Nonetheless, their next opponents are the young upstart AFC North Champion Bengals led by Joe Burrow and their young talented receiving core spearheaded by Ja’Marr Chase. The Raiders have some talent of their own, but nothing nearly as hyped as this year’s Bengals squad. Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each team, I’ve determined that the winner of this game will be the Bengals.

Keys to a Bengals Win

Neither team is stellar defensively. By season’s end, the Bengals were ranked 17th, while the Raiders were ranked 26th. Where the Bengal’s defense shines, however, is where the Raiders slack. The Bengal’s passing defense is ranked sixth, while the Raiders are ranked 20th. Given the potency of the Bengals receiving core, I believe this is something they’ll take advantage of. However, Cincinnati’s 28th ranked rushing defense leaves a lot to be desired.

If the Bengals fall behind early and allow the Raiders to control the clock, it’ll be a long day for Cincinnati. Raiders Running back Josh Jacobs has been inconsistent but is more than capable against a bad run defense. Luckily for the Bengals, their offense lives on big plays and has demonstrated that they can score quickly and often. On the other hand, the Raiders don’t have the offensive weapons to score cheap touchdowns. Meaning they’ll have to methodically drive down the field and hope the Bengals don’t force a mistake. Both teams have offensive lines ranked in the twenties, so it might just come down to who can protect their quarterback better.

The last time these teams met was on November 22nd. The Bengals won the game 32-13 in large part due to Joe Mixon’s 123 yards rushing. The Bengals won the time of possession 37 minutes to 23 minutes and forced two turnovers. I don’t believe the second bout will be as one-sided as the first, but the youthful Bengals will again come out on top.

Patriots @ Bills

The Patriots have struggled over their last five games of the NFL regular season. Mac Jones is completing just above 60% of his passes, has thrown five interceptions, and the Patriots are 2-3. Meanwhile, the Bills are 4-1 in their last five, with Josh Allen playing his best and worst football. This will be the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams. But with the season series tied at 1-1, I see the Bills coming out on top and officially ending the Patriots season.

Keys to a Bills Win

No head coach in NFL history has had more success in the regular season or playoffs than Bill Belichick. But against this Bills team, I think New England is simply overmatched. The key to Buffalo winning this game is the same as how they won the last time. Let Josh Allen play his game, score early, make New England abandon the run, and have faith in your #1 ranked defense to force Mac Jones into mistakes. The Patriots, at this moment, are too limited of a team to overcome a dynamic roster like the Bills.

Their snow game against Buffalo was an outlier. Even then, if it weren’t for some dropped passes, the Bills more than likely win that game. The only way I see the Patriots winning this game is if Josh Allen turns the ball over, giving them short fields. Otherwise, I don’t trust Mac Jones to continuously lead the Patriot’s offense down the field. I like the direction the Patriots are headed, but this season won’t be their year.

Steelers @ Chiefs

There’s not much to say about this game. The Chiefs are better than the Steelers in every way imaginable and have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl the past two seasons. The fact that the Steelers even made it to the playoffs is a credit to Mike Tomlin and demonstrates how big of a disappointment the AFC North turned out to be. These teams met back on December 26th in what was a lopsided 36-10 blowout, with the Chiefs coming out on top. The good news for Ben Roethlisberger is that he gets to end his final NFL season in the playoffs. The bad news for Big Ben and the Steelers is that they’re going to get blown out… again.

Keys to a Chiefs Win

To put it bluntly, the Chiefs just need to be themselves, and they’ll win. As long as they don’t play down to their competition and no one gets COVID, the Chiefs will win handily. Even Big Ben himself knows the odds are completely against them.

Nonetheless, congrats on the Hall of Fame career Big Ben!

NFC

Eagles @ Buccaneers

The Eagles are one of the surprises of this NFL season. They finished the season 9-8 and lead the league in rushing. Jalen Hurts has improved drastically from year one to year two, and looks like he could be the future in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they drew one of the worst first-round matchups they could’ve asked for. Not only will the Eagles be facing the reigning Super Bowl champions, but they’ll be facing a team who excels at stopping what the Eagles do best. Not only is Tampa Bay’s defense ranked fifth overall, but they’re #1 against the run.

Despite the injuries Tampa Bay has suffered, I’m taking them to beat the Eagles.

Keys to a Buccaneers Win

Tom Brady has seen every defense the NFL has to offer. In fact, the only one that appears to stifle the greatest quarterback of all time is the Saints. There isn’t one thing that the Eagles defense does well, meaning Brady should have an easier time deciphering how to beat them. Even with Tampa’s offense short-handed, I still believe they have enough weapons and will get enough chances to put points on the board. Not to mention I’m borderline allergic to betting against Brady at this point.

I like what I’ve seen from Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, but their offense is too one-dimensional to overcome what Tampa can throw their way. The Eagle’s offense is ranked 25th in passing, and despite the injuries Tampa suffered to their secondary throughout the year, they ended the season ranked 12th against the pass. The Bucs defense is excellent at stopping what the Eagles do best and are more than capable of shutting down what the Eagles already struggle at. I don’t know if this game ends in a blowout, but it’s sure to look one-sided.

49ers @ Cowboys

This is the one game of Super Wild Card weekend where an upset is likely. The Cowboys are just three-point favorites at home, meaning that the game is essentially a push. The 49ers have been a rollercoaster all season long due to injuries. In the end, however, their offense is top 12 in both passing and rushing, and their defense ended the year ranked ninth overall. The Cowboys have been one of the glamorous topics of the 2021 NFL season due to their unexpected success. But due to their inconsistencies over the second half of the year, I’m taking the 49ers to beat Dallas.

Keys to a 49ers Win

The 49er’s defense is ranked in the top ten in rushing and passing. The 49ers are tied for fifth in sacks and for eighth in points allowed. So not only do they limit how many yards you get, but they also get after your quarterback and bend before they break. With Dallas’s offensive struggles since their overtime victory against the Patriots, the 49er’s defense could pose serious issues for Dak Prescott and company. Some would argue that thanks to Dallas’s #1 ranked offensive line and total offense, combined with their own steller pass rush, the 49ers should be the ones in trouble. While that makes sense on paper, that’s not where football is played.

Since week six, Dallas’s offense hasn’t lived up to its hype. Both their running game, as well as Dak’s overall performance, has dipped. Thankfully for the Cowboys, they’ve been able to lean on their defense to take the ball away. Jimmy Garoppolo is no stranger to turning the ball over, not to mention he has an injured thumb. But if the 49er’s third-ranked offensive line can keep him upright, negate Dallas’s pass rush, and run the ball on Dallas’s 17th ranked run defense, they could force Dak Prescott to watch from the sidelines. In doing so, the 49ers can keep their defense, and specifically, their pass rush rested, then even when Dak steps onto the field, he’ll need to beat a rested defensive line that ranks sixth in sacks.

Not many expected the 49ers to be here, but the betting odds favor the 49ers in this game. The fact they’re only three-point dogs on the road speaks volumes. Don’t be surprised if the 49ers shock Dallas and end their season.

Cardinals @ Rams

Like the Patriots and Bills, these two teams will be meeting for a third time this season with the series tied at 1-1. The first time they met, the Cardinals handily beat the Rams, while in bout number two, the Cardinals lost by a touchdown. If not for Kyler Murray’s two interceptions, the Cardinals may have swept them. Nonetheless, this will surely be a high-scoring affair between the division rivals. In the end, however, I’m taking the Rams to win this game.

Keys to a Rams Win

Matthew Stafford has both lived up and played down to expectations. The Rams offense is better than last year’s, but Matthew Stafford has been a turnover machine this season with 17 interceptions. He’s been able to offset some of his mistakes with his 41 touchdown passes. There’s an argument that the Rams could’ve been, at least, 14-3 if Stafford didn’t turn the ball over the way he did versus the 49ers. If the Rams hope to win this game, they must limit their turnovers and pressure Kyler Murray to be a one-man offense.

In the Rams’ five losses on the season, they turned the ball over a minimum of two times. Stafford himself is to blame for the bulk of the turnovers. The Cardinals have a turnover differential of +12, whereas the Rams are +2. Plain and simple, the Rams give it away in chunks, and the Cardinals flatly don’t. But even with that being said, the Rams won 12 games while averaging over a turnover a game. When they don’t turn the ball over, they’re undefeated.

The coaching match-up is going to be one to watch as well. Sean McVay is an excellent head coach who’s taken his team to a Super Bowl. Kliff Kingsbury, a coach I have my doubts about, has not. The Rams are loaded with playoff-tested players, and while the Cardinals have some experienced veterans, their quarterback and coach have never been here before. I’m counting on Sean McVay to have his team ready and prepared to take on their inexperienced division rival and send them home packing.

To Recap

I have…

  • Bengals > Raiders
  • Bills > Patriots
  • Chiefs > Steelers
  • Buccaneers > Eagles
  • 49ers > Cowboys
  • Rams > Cardinals

I could be wrong, but that’s the beauty of predicting NFL games! Compared to any other sport, the NFL has the most amount of parody. The best teams don’t always win the games they’re supposed to. But no matter who wins which game this weekend, we’re sure to have an explosive Super Wild Card round!

Follow me on Twitter @KENDRlCKS and check out more NFL-related articles by the Belly Up Sports team.

About Author

Kendrick Lindsay

Growing up in a single-parent household came with its perks and downsides. Perk, I became very close to my mother. The downside, she wasn't a sports watcher. It wasn't until I was 15 years old that I was introduced to the world of sports/sports media. That's when I truly fell in love with it all. And it wasn't the X's and O's that won me over, it was the deep-rooted stories of the business, the athletes, and the ever so changing nature of sports that intrigued me. As a recent college graduate and Communications major, I hope to put my imprint on the sports media world.

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